Modeling your game after Carles Puyol sets quite a high bar, but 15-year-old Carlos Amaya cleared it with room to spare to advance to the Sueño MLS National Finals in May.
A defender from Turlock, California, an agricultural enclave in Northern California, Amaya and his father made a five-hour drive to Los Angeles to compete in the first round of Sueño MLS last weekend.
Edgar Amaya started teaching his son the game of soccer when Carlos was 6 years old, and the younger Amaya has always tried to emulate the playing style of his inspiration, legendary Barcelona and Spain defender Carles Puyol. Amaya (above) even has that trademark curly hair. It was his composure on the ball, however, that made the best comparison to Puyol and the largest impact on the LA Galaxy coaches evaluating both the first round of tryouts on Saturday and the decisive scrimmage on Sunday.
“We never saw him kick the ball out,” Galaxy youth development coach Juan De Arcos said. “He was always looking for his first options, and he was very smooth with the ball.”
The young center back stood out during the scrimmage as a thorn in the side of every opposing attacker, chasing down every loose ball and constantly using his body to prevent scoring chances.
“Carlos was a beast,” Galaxy staff coach Paul Soufl said. “He won all his tackles and used his body very well. He had a really good sense of where he needed to be on the field.”
Along with five other players from this weekend’s tryout, Amaya will compete against 12 other finalists from New York and Portland for a spot in their MLS team’s academy.
Amaya said he still hopes to make major strides in his game before the final tryout, particularly in his touch and his mentality.
Galaxy defender Jeff Larentowicz said it best during his speech to the 25 players who advanced to the Sunday tryout: “You can never feel like you’ve made it. Whether you win Sueño MLS or you’re the last guy picked, you have to continue to push yourself.”
Rating his own performance, Amaya was confident, yet subdued, almost as if not completely satisfied: “I think I did pretty well. I defended most of the time, didn’t let anyone through.”
He’ll continue to improve and intends to stop at nothing to achieve his goal. It’s why he made the 5-hour trip in the first place, and why it won’t seem as long to him in early May.
“I want to go to the next level. That’s what I’m doing here.”